Head Lice

We are sorry you or someone you know is affected by the nuisance of lice. While we do not offer examinations to assess for lice, below you will find information regarding what is head lice, how it is spread, how to assess someone for it, and how to treat if necessary. Resources are available below.
What are head lice? 

Human head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are sesame seed sized parasitic insects that are usually gray, brown, or black in color. Head lice infests the hair on people’s heads and necks, and rarely on their eyebrows and eyelashes. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.

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Who is at risk for getting head lice?

Head lice are found worldwide. Each year millions of school-aged children in the United States get head lice. It is most common in preschool- and elementary school-aged children. However, anyone can get lice, like household members – including adults - of infested children.

How do head lice spread?

Head lice are crawling insects, they do not jump, hop, nor fly. The most common route of spreading lice is from direct contact with the hair of an infested person. There is a very small chance that head lice will spread by sharing personal items such as combs, brushes, hats, or sports helmets. A person’s hygiene or cleanliness of their home has nothing to do with getting head lice.

What are the symptoms of head lice?

  • Itching is the most common symptom. Head lice saliva becomes irritable to the scalp, making the individual’s head feel itchy.
  • “Tickling” or a sensation of something moving in the hair.
  • Seeing white/yellow lice eggs, called nits, attached to individual hairs close to the scalp.
  • Irritability and sleeplessness. Lice are most active at night, causing heighted itching and tickling sensations.
  • Sores on head caused by scratching the scalp.

How do you check for head lice?

  • Seat the individual in a brightly lit room.
  • Part their hair and begin to examine the head. Examine very close to the scalp, one section at a time.
  • A fine-tooth comb, or a specific nit comb, can assist with searching each section.
  • Look for live crawling lice and for nits - white/yellow lice eggs, attached to individual hairs.
    • Live lice may be hard to find as they move quickly and avoid light.
    • Nits can be differentiated from common dandruff, dirt, or hair product particles by examining if they are firmly attached to the hair.
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How do you treat and get rid of head lice?
Nit Picking Chart     Cartel Para Sacar Liendres 

  1. Check all individuals in the household for head lice and nits.
    • For school age children, please contact the school nurse for additional examining and before beginning any lice treatment.
    • For non-school age children, please contact their pediatrician for additional examining and before beginning any lice treatment.
  2. Treat only the individuals who have head lice.
    • The most effective way to treat those infested with head lice is to purchase an over-the-counter treatment at drugstores, grocery stores, and some medical clinics.
    • For children and/or specific alternative or prescribed treatment options, please contact your primary care provider.
      • If you, your family, or your child do not have a primary care provider, please reach out to Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic or the SOS Clinic.
    • Follow the directions on the package as it is written. Do not overuse nor reapply the treatment sooner than instructed. Repeat as instructed on the package.
    • Consult the resources below for step-by-step instructions for combing.
  3. Comb to remove lice and nits.
    • This step is very important, may require patience, and be time consuming.
    • Some lice treatments come with lice-removal combs. The most effective are those that are long round metal teethed combs.
    • After administering and rinsing of the lice treatment, comb the opposite direction of normal hair brushing. Attempt to remove every nit and any lice you find. Repeat as needed each day – usually for 2-3 weeks - to remove all nits and lice.   
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4. Control the spread.
    • Continue to clean the house as normal. Washing clothes, towels, and bedding and vacuuming floors. In addition, soak and clean all combs and brushes.
    • Do not use fumigant sprays or other pest control type sprays, they can be toxic to humans.
    • Notify those who may be affected:
      • Schools and Childcare
      • Family and friends
      • Other groups the individual is a part of, like sports teams or church
  1. For any additional questions or assistance with treatment, contact the child’s school nurse, your primary care provider, or local clinics.
 Link for Print Out Version: 

Resources for Parents:

Head Lice: What Parents Need to Know - American Academy of Pediatrics

Guidelines for Controlling Head Lice - Spokane Regional Health District  

Head Lice: How to Treat - YouTube

Head Lice Removal Combing Techniques - YouTube


Resources for Schools:

Infectious Disease Control Guide for School Staff - Superintendent of Public Instruction WA

Head Lice Management in Schools - NASN

Controlling Head Lice & Reducing Stigma - American Academy of Pediatrics

Head Lice Information for Schools - CDC


Resources for Providers:

Over-the-counter treatment is widely available but if alternative or additional intervention is needed, prescription lice treatments can be filled at the local pharmacies. Medicaid will cover the cost. WWCDCH does not have any treatment to distribute to the public at this time.